Music and artistic expression is usually at it's best during time of personal struggle or celebration. This best is magnified when that struggle or celebration is shared with others. America as a whole is definitely struggling right now.
Just yesterday, it was announced that the cop responsible for the death of Eric Garner would not be indicted. This announcement came on the heels of the announcement that Darren Wilson would not be indicted for killing Mike Brown. Many people took to the streets in protest (me being one of them). The wheels have started to turn more vigorously, and people are strategizing and plotting ways to better affect necessary change in our society regarding the worth of black lives.
Music is one force that moves people, and as noted it usually brings together ideas not easily expressed any other way. Singers and songwriters have often been at the fore front of movements regarding civil rights- not necessarily marching, or standing at podiums giving speeches, but through their own means of expression- through music.Their songs carry movements along.. they give rhythm and word to the hope and desperation felt by many.
We have a twist on Charles Tindley's I'll Overcome Someday (We Shall Overcome) which by all means is the national anthem of the Civil Rights movement, The Obie Benson, Al Cleveland, and Marvin Gaye anthem- Whats Going On that compelled a generation to desire change. More recently, you have songs like, I Find it Hard to Say by Lauryn Hill (I just blogged this a couple of days ago). This song echos the fact that the same struggles we were facing back in Tindley and Gaye's times have not passed.
I woke this morning to a few more artists using their talents to express their frustration and fears. The beloved Brooklyn songstress Alice Smith rendered her soulful tone to a record penned together by singer/songwriter Sam Dew and David Sitek- Shell Shock. Alice sings of the struggles faced by people of color in this country. The poverty, the violence, the racism, the pain- it's all woven into this metaphorically enhanced track.
I've long appreciated Alice's contribution to music. She gives you Nina Simone's soulful command, that sound that forces you to pay attention. Sam Dew first made his impression on me while in college a few years ago. He's now filtrating mainstream music as an incredible singer/songwriter. The last piece of the Shell Shock puzzle David Sitek is a producer and guitarist who totally gets how soulful the guitar can be. I first learned of him from a collaboration he did with Norah Jones.
It's great to see artists stepping up and using their talents to enhance a movement. Here's another song we can add to our list of motivating records that speak of a time we hope will soon pass.